Yesterday morning (July 4, 2013 at 7:55 a.m.), Dave Black shared some of his thoughts related to ministry, leadership, seminaries, and the church. His observations and conclusions come from studying the New Testament as well as working closely with the church in Ethiopia for the last several years.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia with Dave. I saw the work that God was doing through him and many others there. I also observed many of the same issues that he illustrates below.
However, I think these same problems are alive and well among the church in the United States.
Here are his “thoughts” related to ministry, leadership, seminaries, and the church:
1) Most of the “ministry” in Ethiopia is done by ordained clergy who are seminary trained and are paid for their ministry. Often the people perceive them to be the ministers of the church. Becky and I are committed to involving more of the Body in ministry. And we are training the leaders of the local churches to do their best to equip others (2 Tim. 2:2).
2) The resident seminaries in Ethiopia are usually geared to training academically superior leaders who are required to dislocate themselves from their homes and communities for at least 3 years. This model of education, as I have often said, is beset with 3 problems: extraction, expense, and elitism. Extracting leaders from their communities is very expensive and often leads to a sense of elitism among the graduates. We are beginning to train leaders in their home environments. We do not believe that servants-in-training need to be uprooted from their homes. Nor do we believe that theological education need involve formal schooling; indeed, traditional theological education is, we are sadly discovering, often a disadvantage.
3) We believe that the best leadership development occurs in local churches. Students should be living in their homes, serving in their churches, and active in their communities as they exercise teaching, preaching, administrative, and evangelistic functions. Again, our experience has shown that when we extract students from their culture, many of them are unwilling or unable to return to the towns from which they came.
4) What should be the curriculum of leadership training? We believe that the best textbook is the Bible itself. Hence the scholar-teachers who come with us to Ethiopia do verse-by-verse exposition of a book of the Bible with a constant focus on practical ministry.
I suppose our convictions might be summarized as follows.
- All believers are called to be ministers in building the kingdom of God.
- Spiritual leaders have the responsibility to equip all members of the Body to serve.
- Theological education is best accomplished on site rather than in faraway seminaries.
- Theological education finds its fulfillment within the framework of the local church.
- The proper end of all theological training is ministry, not degrees or ordination.
- The aim of teaching is not to impart knowledge but to produce obedient disciples.
- If a man is seminary-trained but not living in a manner that is obedient to the commands of the Lord Jesus, he is not qualified to lead.
By the way, while you’re thinking through some of these things, please pray for Dave’s wife BeckyLynn. You can read about what she’s going through in her essay “Running to Home Base.”